Since my recent honey extraction, I’ve been stung twice, both times on the face. I swelled up like a balloon, and I’m not even allergic.

My daughter practiced her considerable makeup skills on me this weekend, so I don’t look quite so much like the Elephant Man today.

In fact, the swelling in my face smoothed out a few wrinkles.  I’m calling it “Beetox.”

But the fact  I was stung in the first place by my usually gentle girls made me wonder — Why now? Why on my face? Why did I have such a bad reaction?

I did some research. The answers were, as usual, mostly  “Me-” rather than “Bee-” related.

1.  I didn’t have my bee veil all the way on.  Bees are alarmed by carbon dioxide, hair, and dark colors because common predators of bees (e.g. bears) are hairy, dark colored, and exhale carbon dioxide.  This  is also why bees are drawn to attack the face and head.

2.  Bees are cranky after a honey extraction.   They don’t like anyone taking their honey.  I haven’t noticed this before because this is the first year I’ve had enough honey to extract in the spring. Usually I extract in the fall, right before my bees start closing down shop for the winter.  Also it was warm, rainy and humid.  Bees get cranky for some of the same reasons people do.

3.  I swatted at the bee and hopped and flailed my arms.  Big no-no. Bees are attracted to movement and swatting only makes them more determined to sting.

4.  I pulled out the stingers out with my fingers. This squeezed more venom into the wound. Instead,  I should have scraped the stinger out sideways using my fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.

I’m sure my girls will settle down to normal once they get over the shock of being robbed and the weather dries out a bit.

While I would’ve preferred to have learned the above a different way, a few stings are a part of beekeeping. And I do look a little younger…

Avoiding The Dreaded Sting

I haven’t been stung that many times, but every time I was, I was doing something stupid. Something the bee books tell you not to do. Ever.

Bee handling season is upon us, and I’d like to share with you a few lessons I’ve learned from painful experience.

1. Always check your clothing for stray bees after you inspect the hive.

Sounds simple, right?  The first time I was stung I wasn’t wearing a beekeeper’s suit. I fed my bees sugar syrup and got sticky in the process. After I finished, I went inside and took off my pants to wash them. When I picked up my pants, I grabbed a bee! Ouch!

I started wearing a beekeeper’s suit after that. Easier to see the bees. And I always check for hitchhiking bees before I go inside.

2. Bees don’t like dark colors, body odor or vibrations near the hive.

I found this out while dressed all in black, needing a shower and banging two bricks together while gardening right next to my hive. Amazingly, I only got stung once.

My bees probably thought I was a very dim-witted little bear.

3. It’s a good idea to wear wellies while inspecting the hives instead of black socks and black clogs.

See Number 2 above.  Bees can sting through socks like nobody’s business! It was my worst experience with bee stings. My ankle was swollen for a week.

4. Inspect the hive between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm, when a lot of the bees aren’t home.

Inspecting the hive at 7 am isn’t a good idea. Especially when wearing black socks and black clogs.

Now when I inspect my hives, I smell as sweet as a rose in my white bee suit and wellies. I also look like I’m going out to handle Plutonium…

There is a silver lining to my experience with bee stings. I used to have some pain in my hands from typing a lot. Now it’s gone. Bee stings really do work for that!!